For a recent Hack Day at work I spent some time working with one of my colleagues, Adrian Lee, on a little side project to see if we could detect cancer cells in a biopsy image. We've only spent a couple of days on this so far but already the results are looking very promising with each of us working on a distinctly different part of the overall idea.
We held an open day in our department at work last month and I gave a lightening talk on the subject which you can see on YouTube
There were a whole load of other talks given on the day that can be seen in the summary blog post
over on the ETS (Emerging Technology Services) site
Last month, I was fortunate enough to fly off to Austin with a group of colleagues for a week long IBM Design Thinking camp. It was an opportunity to get away from the day job, with laptops all-but banned, and have a deep-dive into what IBM Design is about and how it can be applied.
As a relatively new effort within the company, IBM Design sets out to bring a focus back to where it should be; the human-experience of our products and services. This isn’t just about making pretty user interfaces; it is the entire experience of our products.
As an engineer, the temptation is always there to create shiny new features. But no matter how shiny it is, if it isn’t what a user needs, then it’s a waste of effort. The focus has to be on what the user wants to be able to do. This is something I’ve always tried to do with Node-RED; we often get suggestions for features that, once you start picking at them, are really solutions looking for a problem. Once you work back and identify the problem, we’re often able to identify alternative solutions that are even better.
It’s often just a matter of asking the right question; At Designcamp, the very first exercise we were asked to do was to draw a new type of vase. Everyone drew something that looked vaguely vase-like. Then (spoilers…) we were asked to draw a better way to display flowers. At this point we got lots of decidedly un-vase-like ideas that were much more imaginative. It’s the difference between asking for a feature and asking for an idea. The former presupposes a lot about the nature of the answer, the latter is focused on not just the what, but also the why.
This relentless focus on the user isn’t a new idea. GDS, who are doing incredible things with government services, have it as their very first Design Principle. But it is refreshing to see this focus being brought to bear within a transformation of how the entire company operates.
Oh, and of course being in Austin, we got to screen print our own IBM Designcamp T-Shirts to commemorate the visit.
Lots more photos from the week over on flickr.